Tagged: Joe Mauer

2014 MLB Bobblehead Battle: AL Central

Time for more bobblehead madness.  In case you missed part one on the AL West, check it out here. Again, each bobblehead will be rated 1-5 stars based on quality of subject, originality, number available, and overall awesomeness.  Teams will be ranked by total stars, so the more giveaways (especially quality ones) the better.   Which bobbleheads in the AL Central will be crowned the king?  Let’s find out!

Cleveland Indians (amount of giveaway varies)

Saturday, May 3rd, Orel Hershiser: Interesting choice for a throwback bobblehead as Hershiser had a 4.21 ERA in his three seasons with the Tribe.  He is a big name though.  This giveaway is for 10,000 fans.  ** 1/2

Saturday, May 31st, BrOhio: I have no idea where this is going, but it has potential to be the most creative bobblehead in Cleveland’s crop.  They also up the giveaway to 12,500 for this one.  *** 1/2

Tuesday, June 3rd, Michael Bourn: Pretty standard stuff here.  Back down to 10,000 fans on this giveaway **

Tuesday, July 8th, Jason Kipnis: See, Michael Bourn.  But a slightly better player and 12,500 fans get this one. ** 1/2

Monday, September 1st, Michael Brantley: Another average to slightly above average player getting his bobble on.  Still 12,500 fans for this one, but still a low number compared to other teams.  A lot of quantity, but not much quality from the Indians in 2014.  **

Total: 12 1/2 stars

Minnesota Twins (10,000 fans)

Friday, June 20th, Harmon Killebrew 1965 All-Star Game: I had a feeling the Twins would go the route the Mets did in 2013 and honor players that appeared in All-Star Games with the team.  The Twins are hosting the 2014 All-Star Game.  This would be a huge boost if the Twins also featured the three Minneapolis stadiums to host the All-Star Game as well.  Killebrew is one of my favorite players of all-time.  ****

Friday, July 4th, Lou Gehrig: This giveaway is with the Yankees in town and corresponds with the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s farewell speech.  Great tip of the cap to history by the Twins.  ****

Saturday, July 5th, Tom Brunansky 1985 All-Star Game: Brunansky picked a great year to be the only Twins All-Star and make his only appearance in the Midsummer Classic.  The career .245 hitter does have a sweet mustache, but it’s not enough to probably be the worst bobblehead of 2014. *

Saturday, September 6th, TBD 2014 All-Star Game:  Fake Vegas odds on who this bobblehead will be.  Joe Mauer -2000, Glen Perkins +500, anyone else +1500.  If it’s Mauer…….. ***

Total: 12 stars

Kansas City Royals (10,000 fans)

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Saturday, June 28th, James Shields: This is going to be tough to dole out stars with a measly 10,000 fans getting each bobblehead.  Shields is a solid pitcher, but not a big star.  **

Saturday, July 12th, Salvador Perez:  Perez isn’t even on Shields’ level, yuck. * 1/2

Sunday, August 10th, Alex Gordon:  Gordon is the “star” of the team.  We’ll see if they make it with a Gold Glove variation, that’d be a nice addition. ** 1/2

Saturday, August 30th, Mr. Royal: This one could actually be fun!  This throwback mascot will get a bobblehead on retro night.  I’m in. *** 1/2

Total: 9 1/2 stars

Detroit Tigers (amount of giveaway varies)

Thursday, June 5th, Max Scherzer 2013 Cy Young Award: No picture yet of the the bobblehead, but I’d suspect it’ll be him holding the Cy Young award.  Maybe they’ll throw in the WWE Title belt that Scherzer was given for winning Cy Young.  This giveaway is for 15,000 fans. ***

Thursday, August 14th, Justin Verlander Mini-Bobblehead: Mini-bobblehead?  Can’t give him a normal sized one?  I’ll only accept this if there’s a mini-Kate Upton on it too.  This giveaway is for just 10,000 fans.  Dislike. * 1/2

Friday, August 15th, Miguel Cabrera 2-Time MVP: Apparently to get a normal-size bobblehead you have to win an award the previous season.  I want Cabrera to be wearing his Triple Crown crown while holding two MVP’s in his arms.  I’d bet it won’t look like that.  This giveaway is also for 10,000 fans. ****

Total: 8.5 stars

Chicago White Sox (20,000 fans)

Saturday, May 24th, Chris Sale: Sale is the current and future ace of the White Sox.  The extra 5,000 fans that get to take this home compared to the Yu Darvish bobblehead in part one, gives this an extra 1/2 star.  ***

Saturday, August 30th, Tony LaRussa: Many people forget that LaRussa started his managing career on the Southside.  In his Hall of Fame induction year, I like that they’re giving him a bobblehead.  I hope it’s in this classic throwback uniform. *** 1/2

Total: 6.5 stars

That’ll do it for the AL Central.  I’m quite disappointed that there were no pictures of any 2014 bobbleheads in this division.  The Indians win on quantity, but the Twins win on quality.  Unless, it’s Tom Brunansky of course.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

World Baseball Classic Fantasy: Round Two, Pool Two

After a big scare, USA advanced to the 2nd round of the World Baseball Classic!  Joining the Americans will be the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy.  Yes, Italy.  Forza Italia!  Jeremy and Mapes are back with their picks for “Round Two Pool Two” for World Baseball Classic Fantasy.  Mapes took the Pool C/D 1st round draft 124-121 over Jeremy (despite Brett Lawrie’s injury), but Jeremy has a sizable lead in “Round Two Pool One”, with just Netherlands vs. Japan left. Remember, for this draft we must have at least two players from each team and no more than four from any country.  Mapes picked first last time, so Jeremy will have the 1st pick in this round of drafting!

Quick reminder:
Countries to pick from: USA, Italy, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico

Positions: C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, OF, OF, Util, SP, SP, RP, RP

Hitter scoring: Single: 1, Double: 2, Triple: 3, Home run: 4, Run scored: 1, RBI: 1, Stolen base: 1

Pitcher scoring: Out recorded: 1, Hit or walk allowed: -1, Run allowed: -2, Strikeout: 1, Win: 10, Loss: -5, Save: 5

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Pick #1 – Team Jeremy: Robinson Cano, 2B (Dominican Republic)

I learned my lesson in round one. NEVER BET AGAINST ROBBIE CANO! That being said, I knew I had to take the Dominican slugger (and arguably the MVP of the entire tournament so far) first overall. Sorry, Mapes!

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Pick #2- Team Mapes: Ryan Braun, OF (USA)

NOOOOOOO!!!! Cano was going to be my top pick.  I’m going to go back to the well with Ryan Braun and hope that he can snap out of his little funk he had in round one.  He typically doesn’t hit well at Chase Field, so I hope that’s all it was.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 4.44.12 PMPick #3- Team Mapes: Gio Gonzalez, SP (USA)

My starting pitcher plan was to grab who is facing Italy, but I don’t know who actually is.  I’m going to go with Gio, who is rested and ready to go.  He’s pitching in his hometown of Miami and has more pitches to work with.  I think he can get a win against Puerto Rico.

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Pick #4 – Team Jeremy: Yadier Molina, C (Puerto Rico)

Redemption! It’s so, so sweet. After suffering through round one with Carlos Santana (just kidding, he wasn’t that bad), I knew I had to take my boy Yadi with this pick. His bat’s starting to heat up, and that’s bad news for opposing pitchers.

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Pick #5- Team Mapes: Jose Reyes, SS (Dominican Republic)

You took one half of the Dominican dominance up the middle, so I can’t let you have the other.  Reyes was great in game one, but fell off a little in the other two games.  However, he’s the clear top shortstop in this pool and I’m happy to have him.

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Pick #6 – Team Jeremy: David Wright, 3B (USA)

I should have known to take Wright last time, given his history in the WBC. There has been no player more clutch than Wright in the Classic over the years, and I’m betting on him coming up big again in round two.

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Pick #7- Team Mapes: Anthony Rizzo, 1B (Italy)

Keeping with my theme from the last draft involving Italy, I want to make sure I get the best player on that team.  That is clearly Anthony Rizzo hitting in the middle of the lineup and the crop of 1st baseman isn’t very strong in this pool.

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Pick #8 – Team Jeremy: Samuel Deduno, SP (Dominican Republic)

I’m taking a big risk this high, but Deduno was masterful in his first start. I’d prefer that he end up pitching against Team Italy, but I’m pretty comfortable with this guy’s electric stuff on the mound at any point in round two.

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Pick #9-  Team Mapes: Angel Pagan, OF (Puerto Rico)

I needed to grab someone from Puerto Rico and I have a hard time rooting for Carlos Beltran for some strange reason. *cough Mets* *cough Cardinals*  I’ll take Pagan who hit a team-best .455 in round one from the lead-off spot.

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Pick #10 – Team Jeremy: Craig Kimbrel, RP (USA)

I’m just glad Kimbrel’s around this late. You love your Braves, but I have to nab the guy right here and make sure I have the most dominant closer in the world right now on my squad. If the USA plays a close game (it will), guess who’s getting me at least five points?

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Pick #11- Team Mapes: Fernando Rodney, RP (Dominican Republic)

You had to go and take my Braves guy, I see how it is.  I can’t let the other closers fall now, so I’m going to get Fernando Rodney who pitched in all three games for the Dominicans.  I think they’re going to win a couple games, so there will be save chances for the man with the crooked hat.

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Pick #12 – Team Jeremy: Xavier Cedeno, RP (Puerto Rico)

Good move grabbing Rodney. He’ll score you some points. I can only hope that Cedeno does the same for me with Team Puerto Rico. He was the best reliever on the team in round one, but it’s still unclear to me if he’s the actual “closer.”

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Pick #13- Team Mapes: R.A. Dickey, SP (USA)

I really thought about taking Cedeno because I needed another player from Puerto Rico, good pick Jeremy.  I have no clue who Dickey will face, but I hope with some more time under his belt the knuckler will be dancing against whomever he pitches against in round two.

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Pick #14 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, OF (Puerto Rico)

You passed on Beltran, but I refuse to make the same mistake. Not only is Beltran dominant in the MLB postseason, but he has solid numbers across his WBC career. Puerto Rico’s captain clutch should rack up some points for me this round.

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Pick #15- Team Mapes: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/Util (Dominican Republic)

Good!  You can have Beltran!  I wanted to grab the best player on the board for my utility spot and I believe that is the man they call “E5” he hits in the middle of a strong Dominican lineup and I think he’ll put one out of the park this round.

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Pick #16 – Team Jeremy: Chris Denorfia, OF (Italy)

One of the reasons I wasn’t worried about you snagging Rizzo early was that I knew you wouldn’t go after Denorfia. Even though his hot start fizzled a little at the end, he’s hitting in front of Rizzo and has good contact and base running abilities. Give me some sneaky points, Chris!

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Pick #17- Team Mapes: Alex Liddi, 3B (Italy)

Time to grab another Italian!  You wouldn’t let me pick him off the waiver wire when Brett Lawrie went down with a rib injury, so I’m making sure I get him now!

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Pick #18 – Team Jeremy: Alejandro De Aza, OF (Dominican Republic)

One of the players I was most impressed with in round one was De Aza, who looks more and more like a sleeper pick in normal fantasy leagues this year. He’s getting on base, scoring runs and swiping bags. Expect more of the same this round.

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Pick #19- Team Mapes: Nick Punto, 2B (Italy)

Well, since you took my planned second baseman in Cano, I’ll settle for Nick Punto who was a spark on the top of the Italian lineup.  Then hope that it’s Rizzo and Liddi who are knocking him in!

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Pick #20 – Team Jeremy: Eric Hosmer, 1B (USA)

Yes, please! Not only do I think Hosmer is a bounce-back candidate in the regular season, but his first two at-bats proved that he’s swinging it on the money right now. The bases-clearing double in the ninth to seal the game was all I needed to confirm this choice.

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Pick #21- Team Mapes: Joe Mauer, C (USA)

I need a catcher.  Joe Mauer is a catcher.  He hits in the middle of the USA lineup.  Perfect.

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Pick #22 – Team Jeremy: Ryan Vogelsong, SP (USA)

I hate having a Giant on my team, but it paid off last round with Pablo Sandoval and Pagan. I think Vogelsong will get the start against Italy (though if it’s Dominica I may be screwed), and I think he will dominate them.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 12.34.30 PMPick #23 – Team Mapes: Alex Rios, OF (Puerto Rico)

I probably should’ve taken my boy Giancarlo Stanton returning to Marlins Park, but man his zero points in round one scared me off.  I’m going with Alex Rios who has some speed, some power, and I’ll hopefully get three games out of him.

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Pick #24 – Team Jeremy: Anthony Granato, SS (Italy)

I just realized that neither of us has Stanton. In his home ballpark. Due for a couple dingers. DANG IT! I’ll move on and collect Granato, the Italian shortstop who put up very good numbers in round one.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 12.37.21 PMPick #25 – Team Mapes: Ross Detwiler, RP (USA)

Well I’m in a little bit of a pickle for my second reliever.  I don’t think Italy wins a game, so that rules out Grilli getting a save.  I’m going to the surprise from Team USA in round one in Ross Detwiler.  If he comes out as the long reliever, I just hope he’ll rack up some outs and points that way.

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Pick #26 – Team Jeremy: Hanley Ramirez, 3B/Util (Dominican Republic)

Smart man, Mapes. Detwiler seems like more of a point-getter to me than Grilli will be. Nice rhyme, huh? Even though Ramirez had one hit in the first round (a monster HR), he’s swinging a hot bat and I think he drops at least one more bomb in round two.

Pool two, round two WBC fantasy draft is in the books!  Did we make a mistake not taking Giancarlo Stanton in his home park?  Should we have really picked all three American starters?  Who would you want on your WBC fantasy squad this round?  Let us know in the comments or send us a tweet using #WBCFantasy with the links below!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes) & Jeremy Dorn (@jamblinman)

Rate that Roster! USA World Baseball Classic Edition

The World Baseball Classic returns for the 3rd time starting March 2nd.  Fellow blogger Jeremy Dorn gave his rankings of every team in the WBC last week.  (I haven’t figured out how he has South Korea 11th either) I wanted to delve more into team USA’s chances and how the roster stacks up.

Catcher

WBC catchers

Who’s In: Joe Mauer-Twins, J.P. Arencibia-Blue Jays, and Jonathan Lucroy-Brewers

Who’s Out: Buster Posey-Giants and Brian McCann-Braves

Interesting that the deepest offensive position with three players is at catcher.  They clearly want to rotate these guys so they don’t get too banged up before the MLB season begins.  Not being able to score the defending NL MVP in Buster Posey is a tough blow to team USA, but having hitting machine and former AL MVP Joe Mauer lessens the blow.  He could even be the designated hitter option, when Arencibia or Lucroy are behind the plate.  Arencibia’s inclusion seems to coincide with R.A. Dickey’s appearance on the roster.  The two are now teammates in Toronto and have been working together to have knuckleball success.  I’m sure the Blue Jays will be pleased with them getting reps together in high pressure situations.  Lucroy had his best season at the plate last year, but was hampered by injuries.  He’ll be a solid offensive piece down the lineup.   Getting Posey on board would’ve made this an easy A, but alas.  Grade: B+

First Base

Who’s In: Mark Teixeira-Yankees

Who’s Out: Prince Fielder-Tigers, Paul Konerko-White Sox, Adam LaRoche-Nationals, and Freddie Freeman-Braves

I would’ve much preferred the bat of Prince Fielder, but I have no qualms with Teixiera joining team USA for the 2nd time.  He’s not the hitter he once was, but does have pop, will provide for some interesting decisions with his switch-hitting ability, and is one of the best defensive first baseman in the game.  He’s going to get a lot of work in as the only true first baseman on the roster, but could get spelled by Mauer and maybe even Ben Zobrist.  Grade: B-

Second Base

WBC 2B

Who’s In: Brandon Phillips-Reds and Ben Zobrist-Rays

Who’s Out: Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox, Ian Kinsler-Rangers, and Aaron Hill-Diamondbacks

Pedroia and Kinsler are probably better hitters than Zobrist, but the Zorilla’s ability to play mulitple positions makes him a suitable choice.  I don’t think we’d see any of the other possibilities manning right field or shortstop the way Zobrist does for the Rays.  Brandon Phillips will get the majority of time at second base and the three-time Gold Glove winner will flash plenty of leather for the red, white, and blue.   The only better second baseman in the tournament is Robinson Cano for the Dominican Republic.  Grade: B+

Shortstop

WBC SS

Who’s In: Jimmy Rollins-Phllies and Willie Bloomquist-Diamondbacks

Who’s Out: Derek Jeter-Yankees, Troy Tulowitzki-Rockies, and Ian Desmond-Nationals

One would have to believe that Rollins is on the roster over Desmond just based on experience and leadership ability.  Jeter’s ankle may not be 100% in time for the WBC and with Tulo’s injury history it was clear he wouldn’t risk it.  Rollins is the defending NL Gold Glove winner at the position and played in the last WBC for USA.  He’s not the hitter we once was, but can provide speed atop the lineup.  Bloomquist is the questionable pick for the roster, but he’s a clear utility player and can play numerous positions in case of injury.   When compared to the players team USA could’ve had if healthy, I can’t give out a great grade.  Grade: C

Third Base

Who’s In: David Wright-Mets

Who’s Out: Chase Headley-Padres, Ryan Zimmerman-Nationals, and David Freese-Cardinals

This was the easiest call for team USA.  Wright is the best third baseman in America right now.  The only problem for the Stars & Stripes is that Venezuela (Miguel Cabrera) and the Dominican Republic (Adrian Beltre) have better options at the position.  Grade: A-

Outfield

WBC OF

Who’s In: Ryan Braun-Brewers, Adam Jones-Orioles, Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, and Shane Victorino-Red Sox

Who’s Out: Mike Trout-Angels, Bryce Harper-Nationals, Andrew McCutchen-Pirates, Josh Hamilton-Angels, and Matt Holliday-Cardinals

Now we’re getting to the good stuff.  Even without Trout and McCutchen, I love this outfield.  Braun is the best left fielder in the game and a perennial MVP candidate.  Jones is a budding superstar that helped turned the Orioles around and is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game.  Stanton is a straight masher that you can’t pitch around in middle of the lineup.  Victorino doesn’t have the name of some of the other players that aren’t playing, but his ability to play all three oufield positions, while filling in as pinch-runner and possibly designated hitter is good enough.  I know Mike Trout wanted to have a traditional spring training entering his 2nd full season, but I think that he’s going to come to regret not being around this talented group.  Grade: A

Starting Pitching

WBC SP

Who’s In: R.A. Dickey-Blue Jays, Kris Medlen-Braves, Ryan Vogelsong-Giants, Derek Holland-Rangers

Who’s Out (for now): Justin Verlander-Tigers, David Price-Rays, Jered Weaver-Angels, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee-Phillies, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner-Giants

It’s pretty easy too look at those two lists and get a lump in your throat.  There is one spot still open for a starting pitcher that’d presumably would go to Verlander if he wants it.  Let’s look at what is definite right now.  Team USA sports the defending NL Cy Young winner in Dickey, who’s knuckleball will give batters fits seeing it for the first time this season.  Medlen was arguably (and I’d argue was) the best pitcher in the 2nd half last season.  When he’s on his game, he’s unhittable.  Vogelsong is a fantastic story since returning to MLB from Japan and can be useful as he might have some inside knowledge on the Japanese hitters.  Holland is a decent southpaw, great in the clubhouse, and let’s be honest we’re all secretly hoping he faces the Netherlands.  If Joe Torre has a sense of humor, it’ll happen.  It’s not the best, but it’s certainly not the worst.  Grade: B-

Left-Handed Relievers

WBC LHP

Who’s In: Jeremy Affeldt-Giants, Tim Collins-Royals, and Glen Perkins-Twins

Who’s Out: Sean Marshall-Reds, Eric O’ Flaherty and Jonny Venters-Braves, Darren Oliver-Blue Jays, and Sean Burnett-Angels

No offense to Tim Collins, but I’d rather have all five pitchers in the “Who’s out” list than him.  Affeldt is a great big-game pitcher as he proved in the 2012 postseason.  He’ll have to come through in big spots as the best of this bunch.  Perkins has become a solid lefty.  He’s climbed his way up the ranks to become the Twins closer.  Seeing a lot of quality lefties staying in their spring training homes is a little disheartening though.  Grade: C+

Right-Handed Relievers

WBC RHP

Who’s In: Heath Bell-Diamonbacks, Mitchell Boggs-Cardinals, Steve Cishek-Marlins, Luke Gregerson-Padres, Craig Kimbrel-Braves, Chris Perez, and Vinnie Pestano-Indians

Who’s Out: Jim Johnson-Orioles, Jason Motte-Cardinals, Jonathan Papelbon-Phillies, Joel Hanrahan-Red Sox

As long as the words “Heath Bell in a high pressure situation” aren’t used I really like the bullpen that Greg Maddux has to work with.  Craig Kimbrel is the best relief pitcher in the world right now and should lock down any game in the 9th inning.  Perez and Pestano work well together in Cleveland.  Boggs was a revelation in St. Louis this past season.  Cishek will be a change of pace reliever with his submarine delivery.  Cishek did really well filling in as the Marlins closer when Heath Bell fell apart last season.  Gregerson is one of the leagues most underrated relievers because he pitches in San Diego and has never had an ERA over 3.24 in his four seasons.  Having Kimbrel on the roster is such a boon for this bullpen.  Grade: A-

Final Thoughts: Team USA will have a real shot at knocking Japan off the top of the WBC mountain.  The coaching staff with Joe Torre, Greg Maddux, Dale Murphy, Gerald Perry, Larry Bowa, Willie Randolph, and Marcel Lachemann is top notch.  The only real question marks are at shortstop and left-handed pitching to me.  I believe that if the starters can get a lead to the bullpen though, USA will be dangerous.  I expect at least another run to the semi-finals and a trip to San Francisco.  Every team at that level is so talented, it’s going to come down to the little things to decide the champion.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Ranking the World Baseball Classic Rosters

World-Baseball-Classic-2013In about six weeks, the World Baseball Classic will be upon us again and Team USA will look to win its first title in the competition’s history. They’ve got a good shot — manager Joe Torre released his roster on Thursday, and they are absolutely loaded.

Unfortunately for fans of Team USA, one glance at a few competing rosters will stop the celebration in its tracks. Can someone unseat two-time defending champions, Team Japan? Will Team USA improve upon their 4th-place finish in 2009?

We can’t predict the results down to the wire, but we’re here to do what we do best at Three Up, Three Down. We rank the rosters! So strap in, baseball fans, and see if your favorite team stands a chance:

**The “Stick to Soccer” Group**

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#16: BRAZIL

Notable player(s): Barry Larkin, Manager (and Hall of Fame Reds SS)

International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Ranking: 20

Breakdown: Good thing for their dominance on the international soccer scene, because Brazil isn’t going anywhere in the Classic. Yan Gomes was the first Brazilian player to ever reach the big leagues, and the country itself only has 14 players signed to Major League contracts. How they will win: They won’t. Why they won’t: See “How they will win.”  

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#15: CHINA

Notable player(s): Bruce Chen, SP, Royals 

IBAF Ranking: 18

Breakdown: The Chinese baseball team is a decade away from being a serious contender, but they are headed in the right direction. They’ve made steady improvements over international tournaments since a decent showing at the 2009 WBC, in which they eliminated Chinese Taipei. How they will win: Hustle, starting pitching. Why they won’t: Not enough of either.

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#14: SPAIN

Notable player(s): Paco Rodriguez, RP, Dodgers/Engel Beltre, OF, Rangers

IBAF Ranking: 16

Breakdown: I’m not sure what to think about Spain. They lack star power, but did knock off Israel and South Africa in qualifiers. The roster is dotted with promising Major League prospects, but I don’t foresee Spain winning more than a game, maybe two in the WBC. How they will win: Breakout tourney from Beltre. Why they won’t: Their Pool C competition is stacked (Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic).

italy wbc cap

#13: ITALY

Notable player(s): Jason Grilli, RP, Pirates/Francisco Cervelli, C, Yankees/Nick Punto, IF, Dodgers/Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs/Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres

IBAF Ranking: 9

Breakdown: Not only did we miss out on a Hall of Fame induction for Mike Piazza, but he won’t be participating on Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic either. Props to the Italians for back-to-back Euro Championships, but the competition is pretty weak over there right now. I think they will be humbled in the WBC. How they will win: Play with a chip on their shoulder. Why they won’t: Even the MLB-level hitters are thin.

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#12: KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS

Notable Player(s): Jair Jurrjens, SP, MLB Free Agent/Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox/Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers/Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Orioles/Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves/Roger Bernadina, OF, Nationals/Andruw Jones, OF, MLB Free Agent

IBAF Ranking: 7

Breakdown: The Dutch soccer team is one of my favorites to watch. And for the first time in recent memory, so will their baseball team. They just missed my “dark horse” cut, due to sheer overall talent of the rest of the field. But the Major League potential of some youngsters on this roster is extremely intriguing. They’ve won 20 of 32 Euro Championships ever played. How they will win: Infield of dreams breaks out. Why they won’t: Not all the youngsters will perform.

**The Dark Horses**

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#11: SOUTH KOREA

Notable player(s): Jae Seo, SP, former Met, Dodger, Ray in MLB

IBAF Ranking: 4

Breakdown: I feel ridiculous ranking Korea this low, considering their past successes in the WBC. But, it’s the third time this tournament has been played and each team has scouting on the opposition now. I don’t think South Korea will sneak up on anyone this time around. How they will win: High on-base percentage, good defense. Why they won’t: Too much good competition.

Australia-WBC-hat

#10: AUSTRALIA

Notable player(s): Peter Moylan, RP, Dodgers

IBAF Ranking: 10

Breakdown: There’s a handful of good Major League players (like A’s closer Grant Balfour) who hail from the land down under, but there isn’t a whole lot of MLB experience on this roster. Team Australia still has a shot at advancing, but they may have more trouble than in years past. How they will win: Pure grit. Why they won’t: Not enough runs, upstart opposition in Pool B.

canada wbc cap

#9: CANADA

Notable player(s): Jesse Crain, RP, White Sox/John Axford, RP, Brewers/Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates/Russell Martin, C, Pirates/Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays/Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins

IBAF Ranking: 6

Breakdown: We all know that Canada produces some bona fide stars in MLB (Joey Votto, anyone?), but not all are present and accounted for on this roster, similar to Team Australia. They still have the talent to make a run with Lawrie, Morneau and Martin in the middle of the lineup though. How they will win: Dominant bullpen, good middle of the lineup. Why they won’t: Too much youth in the rotation.

taipei wbc cap

#8: CHINESE TAIPEI

Notable player(s): Chien-Ming Wang, SP, MLB Free Agent

IBAF Ranking: 5

Breakdown: There’s a reason that Team Chinese Taipei is a top-five ranked country right now. But their proudest current professional representative (Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen) is not on the team yet. This team is still legit, and has a very winnable pool group. How they will win: Small ball. Why they won’t: Overall talent is lacking.

**The “Justtttt A Bit Outside” Group**

puerto rico wbc cap

#7: PUERTO RICO

Notable player(s): Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals/Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals/Angel Pagan, OF, Giants/Mike Aviles, IF, Indians/Javier Vasquez, SP, MLB Free Agent

IBAF Ranking: 12

Breakdown: There may be no more high-ceiling-yet-average team in the WBC this year. Team Puerto Rico has finished fifth at both tournaments preceding this, and killed Team USA in 2009 before being ousted by them two games later on a walk-off hit. Even with players such as Molina, Beltran and Pagan, they won’t even be favorites in their own pool. How they will win: The Major League talent they have is relentlessly good. Why they won’t: Lack of depth in the rotation.

mexico 2013 wbc cap

#6: MEXICO

Notable player(s): Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers/Luis Cruz, 3B, Dodgers/Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers/Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals/Sergio Romo, RP, Giants

IBAF Ranking: 11

Breakdown: In their pool, Team Mexico will have to deal with Team USA, but other than that they should be favored to top Team Canada and Team Italy to move on. They have a decent infield, top-of-the-line ace, and one of the best closers in baseball. How they will win: Adrian Gonzalez goes off, Gallardo is dominant. Why they won’t: Romo is neutralized unless they have a lead late.

cuba wbc cap

#5: CUBA

Notable player(s): None 

IBAF Ranking: 1

Breakdown: Don’t let the lack of notable players deceive you — this team is good. Really good. They have played in the IBAF World Cup 29 times and won 25 gold medals, finishing second the other four times. In the WBC, Team Cuba has finished second and fourth (which, at the time, was their lowest finish ever in international competition). They just can’t legally have players like Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes on their squad, otherwise they might be even better. How they will win: Hard-throwing starters, handful of five-tool prospects. Why they won’t: The top four teams are just too stacked.

**The Favorites**

japan wbc hat

#4: JAPAN

Notable player(s): None

IBAF Ranking: 3

Breakdown: Again, don’t let the lack of Major League firepower fool you. Much like Cuba, Team Japan has been a hotbed for MLB stars over the years (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish). Even though none of them joined the fray in 2013, this team is stacked. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of future MLB players come off this roster after good WBC performances. After all, they are two-for-two in WBC titles up to this point. How they will win: Ichiro-style on-base scavengers, deceptive pitching. Why they won’t: Not having Ichiro and Darvish, among others, will end up costing Team Japan.

dominican republic wbc hat

#3: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Notable player(s): Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants/Octavio Dotel, RP, Tigers/Alexi Ogando, RP, Rangers/Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays/Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Pirates/Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds/Carlos Santana, C, Indians/Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers/Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees/Edwin Encarnacion, DH/OF, Blue Jays/Hanley Ramirez, IF, Dodgers/Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays/Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers/Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays

IBAF Ranking: 13

Breakdown: The only reason Team Dominica is ranked so low by the IBAF is because all those notable players are stars in the big leagues, and don’t regularly compete internationally for their country. But now that the WBC has rolled around again, this is one unbelievably good team. My only concern is their starting pitching depth. How they will win: Scoring 15 runs per game (no…really). Why they won’t: Like I said, starting pitching depth. Will Volquez and Rodriguez be enough?

USA wbc hat

#2: UNITED STATES

Notable player(s):  Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants/R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays/Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves/Kris Medlen, SP, Braves/Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants/Chris Perez, RP, Indians/Joe Mauer, C, Twins/Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds/Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies/David Wright, 3B, Mets/Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees/Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers/Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins/Adam Jones, OF, Orioles/Joe Torre, Manager

IBAF Ranking: 2

Breakdown: I didn’t even pick all the “notable players” I could have for this team. It’s Team USA’s equivalent of the MLB Dream Team, and Justin Verlander still is undecided as to whether he’ll join the rotation. This team is already a favorite with a balanced lineup and very strong pitching staff, but adding JV would be a coup. Check out fellow Three Up, Three Down host Bryan Mapes’ grades-by-position for Team USAHow they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.

venezuela wbc cap

#1: VENEZUELA

Notable player(s): Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers/Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners/Francisco Rodriguez, RP, MLB Free Agent/Ronald Belisario, RP, Dodgers/Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks/Salvador Perez, C, Royals/Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers/Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians/Miguel Cabrera, 3B/1B, Tigers/Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants/Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants/Carols Gonzalez, OF, Rockies/Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks

IBAF Ranking: 8

Breakdown: The quantity of star power on Team Venezuela might not match up to Team USA or Team Dominica, but the quality is far and beyond. When you start your rotation with Hernandez and stack the middle of your lineup with the reigning Triple Crown winner between Gonzalez and Sandoval, you are a very, very scary team. Even though their WBC pool is very tough, it would be a momentous upset to not see Team Venezuela make moves in the 2013 tournament. How they will win: A large margin of victory. Against anyone. Why they won’t: Slumping hitters or being outplayed by one of the other favorites.

And that’s a wrap. This writer believes Team Venezuela is the team to beat, with Team USA, Team Dominica and Team Japan not far behind. But in all honesty, there are about 10-11 teams who could potentially take home the title in 2013. Root for your team and country to take home top honors, and stay tuned to Three Up, Three Down because we’ll have all your World Baseball Classic coverage.

Like what you see? Follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook for more WBC and MLB news and analysis.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Mapes vs. Jeremy V: Predicting the Silver Sluggers

This feels good to say: It’s MAPES’ turn for redemption. It feels good because that means in our two most recent challenges, I have taken commanding victories. After complete and utter embarrassment for Mapes in the Home Run Derby Challenge, and a shellacking revenge story in the Vin Scully vs. Sid Bream Bobblehead Battle II, Mapes needs some cheering up.

So this is another chance for him to re-assert dominance in sports predictionism (it’s a word now, okay?) over me. Just like the Derby Challenge, this one will not be left up to the audience. Instead, we will take one pick at a time guessing which players will win Silver Sluggers for 2012 in each league.

Similar to our Jersey Draft format, I will take the first pick, Mapes will take the second and third, and we will alternate from there. One small wrinkle this time, though: Once a position has been selected, it is gone. That means if I take Miguel Cabrera as the AL third baseman first (spoiler alert – I will!), Mapes can not later take Adrian Beltre because the AL third base position is already gone.

We will each take 9 positions and whoever gets the most right, wins. Simple as that. Here goes nothin’ – may the best man win:

Pick #1 – Team Jeremy: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (A.L. 3B)

Told you I would take him. Triple Crown, potential MVP, best swing in all of baseball. I really have nothing else to say. This one is a lock.

Pick #2 – Team Mapes: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (A.L. 2B)

I’m already ahead because you picked first. Enjoy figuring out the NL pitcher Silver Slugger, sucker! My first pick I also believe is a lock. Cano led second baseman in every major statistical category and will grab his 3rd straight Silver Slugger.

Pick #3 – Team Mapes: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (N.L. OF)

Ryan Braun put up arguably the best offensive season in the National League, leading in homers (career-high 41), runs, OPS, and total bases. Braun decided to throw in a .319 batting average to boot In my opinion, he’s a lock for his 5th straight Silver Slugger. I’ve already got two in the bank. I’m glad I came up with this challenge.

Pick #4 – Team Jeremy: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (DH)

I’ll admit that I originally listed Billy Butler here, forgetting that Encarnacion actually played the majority of his games at DH in 2012. Bad research by me. Yes, Adam Dunn always has a case here, but he hit .204, and struck out approximately 598 times. With the breakout season Encarnacion had (.280/42/110), it would be a monumental travesty if he didn’t win the DH Silver Slugger.

Pick #5 – Team Mapes: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (A.L. OF)

Butler is in the discussion at designated hitter, but I agree that Edwin Encarnacion, who started at DH more than any other position, does get the Silver Slugger there.  Adam Dunn has a chance too if they just fall in love with his home runs.  Too early for that kind of risk, in my opinion, but I respect your guts.  I’ll go with another lock on my board with Mike Trout, who hit .325, blasted 30 homers, and led the American League in runs scored. Easy call, I’m 3 for 3 guaranteed.

Pick #6 – Team Jeremy: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (N.L. C)

I was a little bit unsure about this pick, simply because there were a few other hot-hitting catchers in the league this year. While Posey is the leading MVP candidate in the National League, you can make a pretty good case for Yadier Molina, Wilin Rosario, or even Carlos Ruiz. After Posey’s scorching second half and huge grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS, I have no doubt that he will get the vote for Silver Slugger.

Pick #7 – Team Mapes: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (N.L. OF)

Look at you redeeming yourself.  I thought about taking Posey at five, but the Yadier Molina risk with Trout still on the board made me pass.  Instead, I’ll go to the 2nd National League outfielder on my list in Andrew McCutchen.  Cutch led the NL in offensive WAR and was tops among N.L. outfielders in batting average (take that Melky).  The Pirates star also led the senior circuit in hits, which I think make him a lock for his first Silver Slugger.  That’s right, I’m calling all FOUR of of my picks so far LOCKS.

Pick #8 – Team Jeremy: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals (N.L. SS)

Look at you thinking all your picks are “locks.” That’s cute. This pick here is a lock – Desmond was by far the best offensive shortstop in the National League this season, helped by the fact that Troy Tulowitzki was injured. Even if Tulo was healthy, it might have been a tight race. Desmond really busted out in 2012, posting career highs across the board (.292/25/73) and the only guy who comes close to matching him is Jimmy Rollins, who hit .250 with less homers and RBI.

Pick #9 – Team Mapes: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (A.L. SS)

Desmond is a lock?  We’ll see what Jose Reyes, Rollins, and Starlin Castro have to say about that.  This one might not be a lock, but why should I go against a player that led the American League in hits?  Who else are they going to give it to?  Alcides Escobar?  Ben Zobrist?  (Not sure he would qualify there)  Elvis Andrus?  This would be Jeter’s first Silver Slugger since 2009.

Pick #10 – Team Jeremy: Chase Headley, San Diego Padres (N.L. 3B)

All those guys will be saying is “Congratulations, Ian!” I do, however, think Jeter will be congratulating J.J. Hardy at season’s end. My pick here is a tough one, because the third base position in the National League is stacked with pretty good candidates. Headley won the NL RBI title and was huge in the second half. Regardless of the team he plays for, I think coaches and managers will remember the type of season Chase had in 2012 when it comes time to vote.

Pick #11 – Team Mapes: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers (A.L. OF)

J.J. Hardy?  Hardy finished 18th at shortstop on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater. A.L leader in hits or dude who hit .238?   I’ll send you a J.J. Hardy shirsey if he wins.  David Wright has a better chance at stealing Headley’s Silver Slugger than Hardy stealing Jeter’s.  I’ll continue my run on the outfield awards and I think getting Josh Hamilton here is a steal.  He’s clearly one of the top three offensive American League outfielders hitting .283 with 43 homers and knocking in 128 runs.  I love this pick, I would date this pick if I could.

Pick #12 – Team Jeremy: Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks (N.L. 2B)

Hamilton definitely was a top three hitter in the A.L. outfield, but will he get the vote with people like Adam Jones, Josh Willingham and Curtis Granderson also in there? We shall see. I feel totally fine calling this pick a lock, considering the usual suspects (Dan Uggla, Brandon Phillips, etc.) can’t hold a candle to the numbers Hill (.302/26/85) put up this year. He hit for the cycle twice in one week. That’s EPIC!

Pick #13- Team Mapes: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (N.L. C)

True story, I like A.J. Pierzynski’s numbers and that makes me not too confident here.  True story, no one likes A.J. Pierzynski which makes me confident in this pick.  Mauer was 4th in the A.L. in batting average and led the league in OBP.  Good enough for me to give him his 1st Silver Slugger since 2010.  Plus, he led me and Lindsay Guentzel to a fantasy baseball title.  Love that guy.  P.S. loved that Aaron Hill pick.

Pick #14 – Team Jeremy: Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (N.L. 1B)

You know what? Even if I lose this contest, getting props on the Hill pick from you is a victory in itself. See, good sportsmanship people! The National League first base crop definitely got weaker with the defections of Albert Pujols and prince Fielder to the A.L. and the injury to Joey Votto. That being said, I like LaRoche (the only NL first baseman with 100 RBI) to get the vote over guys like Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt. LaRoche hit .271 with 33 homers and 100 RBI.

Pick #15 – Team Mapes: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers, (A.L. 1B)

It took us forever to go to first base, but might as well knock them out back to back.  Fielder had the most consistent season at the position hitting behind Miguel Cabrera.  Pujols is in the mix, but the voters could still remember his slow start.  Fielder finished 6th in batting average ( a career-high .313) and 5th in RBI in the American League, while hitting 30 homers for the 6th straight year. The middle of the Tigers lineup is crazy good, huh?

Pick #16 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (N.L. OF)

Even though his own teammate, Matt Holliday, had better overall numbers, I think Beltran has earned the votes of managers and coaches across the league. You would be hard pressed to find an opposing team who didn’t get burned by Carlos Beltran heroics at some point in 2012, and I doubt that it will be forgotten when tallying votes for Silver Slugger. Beltran finished with a line of .269/32/97. The middle of that Cardinals lineup is crazy good, huh?

Pick #17 – Team Mapes: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (A.L. OF)

You stuck me with A.L. outfielder?  Let’s see if I can nail all three with Trout, Hamilton and now Adam Jones.  There are a couple of other options with Alex Rios, Curtis Granderson, and Josh Willingham.  However, I think that the story of the Baltimore Orioles will carry Jones to his first Silver Slugger.  They already snubbed Willingham for the A.L. All-Star team, why not for Silver Slugger too.  At least I gave him a 10th place MVP vote.  Good luck picking the right pitcher for a Silver Slugger!

Pick #18 – Team Jeremy: Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds (P)

I figured I’d give you a shot at sweeping the outfield in the American League. You’ve got a lock on Trout, though I think Hamilton might get upset, and you never know about that third spot. As for N.L. pitcher, this was easier than expected. After crunching the numbers, it came down to Leake and Stephen Strasburg. I’m sacrificing a probable winner by taking Leake, because Strasburg has the name recognition (yes, even among coaches and managers) that Leake doesn’t. But I must point out so the world knows: 18 hits, .295 average, 2 home runs for Mike Leake as a pitcher this year. Give him the Silver Slugger!

Team Jeremy:

Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Buster Posey, Ian Desmond, Chase Headley, Aaron Hill, Adam LaRoche, Carlos Beltran, Mike Leake

Team Mapes:

Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Adam Jones

Who do you think will be taking home some fancy Silver Slugger awards?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes) & Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)